Sons of Liberty
(self-produced, 2002)

I'll bet Jeremy Bauer grew up reading The Flash comic books. Eric Tonsfeldt, I'll wager, likes to watch Speed Racer on TV.

They and the rest of the band Amadan have musical talent to spare. They also have an addiction to speed, and that proves to be the fatal weakness of Sons of Liberty. The album has a breathless feel, a hasty pace that sometimes works -- and sometimes doesn't. "Johnny Jump Up," for instance -- a song about the perils of drinking hard cider -- is so fast that the lyrics blur and become incomprehensible.

Amadan is Jeremy Bauer (whistle, spoons, snare drum, vocals), John Coleman (bass, backing vocals), Andy Gross (didgeridoo, backing vocals), Mike Morrow (dhoumbec, congas, bass drum, backing vocals), Naoyuki Ochiai (fiddle, backing vocals) and Eric Tonsfeldt (guitars, vocals).

This is good stuff but, speaking as a musician who knows the value of speed, it's still important to take a breath now and again. Slow it down once in a while. I love their enthusiasm, but I wish they'd relax just a bit. This kind of energy must be a fantastic live experience, but it doesn't wear as well on a CD. (Similarly, little touches like changing the words "think of" to "drink with" in the chorus of "The Leaving of Liverpool" might seem funny and clever on stage, but the wit doesn't stick through repeated playings.)

There is a mellower, gypsyish instrumental introduction to the first track, "Amore de mes Amores" into "The Gates of Aberdeen," and I wish it had come somewhere in the middle instead, to break up the tempo just a bit.

Oddly, too, the band does a fair number of "angry" Irish songs -- but when they close the album with "Black and Tans," one of the best and angriest of the lot, they do it lightly and politely. It doesn't really work that way; it's like the Irish rebels are inviting the British soldiers out to play, not to fight.

I feel the need to emphasize that these guys are good. If they could pace themselves a little better, they could be great.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 13 December 2003

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